ATEC Course Recycles Technology for Creative Art Projects

gridlines projected on the walls and ceiling of a blue-lit studio space

It may only be gridlines on the wall now, but students in associate professor Andrew Scott’s Projection Mapping Lab will fill the studio and other parts of campus with their artistic creations.

A happy accident provided Andrew Scott, associate professor in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication, with the opportunity to secure tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of projectors needed to teach a class this semester for a fraction of the cost.

In the class, Projection Mapping Lab, UT Dallas students explore artistic expression by projecting images onto objects and spaces. They can take advantage of what Scott calls an immersive grid image along with taped patterns on a solid wall that provide a foundation for the projected artwork.

“The grid becomes projected artwork, and it’s absolutely beautiful,” Scott said. “This project pushes the creative envelope of the class.”

But making the class a reality required planning and a large number of expensive projectors. Scott went searching for solutions in 2015. He didn’t have to search far.

At the time, the studio was a third of its current size and shared a wall with media services, which provides technical solutions for the University’s classrooms. Scott was developing the idea for the projection mapping class, inspired by his first projection-mapped piece, “Reliquary,” which features videos of black men who died during police encounters projected onto a sculpted mask.

portrait of Andrew Scott

The grid becomes projected artwork, and it's absolutely beautiful. This project pushes the creative envelope of the class.

Andrew Scott, associate professor in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication

“(Projection) is perfect from both the artistic and commercial side, which speaks directly to the unified field of ATEC,” Scott said.

His search eventually brought him to Inventory and Property Services, the University department responsible for removing and storing unneeded equipment from classrooms and offices. There, among the printers, monitors, chairs and desks, were some projectors perfect for what Scott had in mind.

The equipment had belonged to the media services team and was moved only days before. Scott remained friendly with the team, even after they relocated and his studio absorbed the extra space. So when the team heard news of more projectors being removed from classrooms during regular updating, they immediately thought of Scott.

“The moral of the story is get to know your neighbor,” Scott said, laughing.

He retrieved an additional 15 projectors from surplus. Scott estimates the retail cost at $19,000 each. He only paid a moving fee.

“It was the happiest $100 I ever spent,” Scott said.

“Although the equipment may not be state-of-the-art for current classroom presentation, it is effectively being used for both classroom instruction and artistic exploration.”

Students in the class are learning to overlay several images at once and blend the edges of images to create a vast panoramic. Eventually, the class will take the projectors outside the classroom to partake in artistic “interventions” around campus.

“These are temporary installations that arise, transform a space or object, then leave it as we found it,” Scott said.

Additionally, the students will display their art at a dedicated installation on April 27 at the Plano Artfest, a public event built around artistic inclusiveness, creative curiosities and cultural connection.

“It will be a real-world project outside of the University,” Scott said. “I want to make people aware of (the students’) creativity.” 

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].